Rhino horns trafficked with impunity
- CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments.
- Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
- CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union).
- The Convention finally entered into force on 1 July 1975.
- Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws.
- Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
The Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC):
- The Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) is an international foundation set up in 2015, with headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands.
- The organisation operates globally with the mission to disrupt and help dismantle organised transnational criminal networks trading in wildlife, timber and fish. The WJC collects evidence with the aim of turning it into accountability.
The need for CITES:
- Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens.
- The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines.
- Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction.
- Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
About Rhino Horn Trade:
- More than 7.5 tonnes of rhino horns were seized globally during the decade.
- The average shipment weight increased markedly after 2017, despite a reduction in rhino poaching across Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This could indicate a greater involvement of organised crime groups as larger volumes of product are moved to increase profit margins per shipment.
- South Africa, Mozambique, Malaysia, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Vietnam, and China have dominated the rhino horn trafficking routes from the source to the destination locations.
- Rhino horns are most frequently smuggled on commercial airlines.
- However, the modus operandi is shifting from small shipments in passenger luggage to larger shipments by air cargo.
- Rhino horn shipments are most often smuggled with no concealment at all, which is a notable difference from the other wildlife products and illicit commodities generally.
- It could suggest traffickers are more reliant on corrupt elements to move rhino horn shipments through the supply chain, making it unnecessary to disguise the products.